Big hits, kicks and jumps
Belleville East senior Evan Gray had his fastball and curveball working early and his changeup working late Tuesday in a Southwestern Conference game against Alton.
And the Redbirds were simply overmatched.
A University of Arkansas recruit, Gray combined with relief pitcher Gabe Tindall for 14 strikeouts as Belleville East took over sole possession of second place in the Southwestern Conference with a 2-1 victory.
Belleville East (11-6, 3-1) scored runs in the first two innings then turned over the game over to Gray, who had two strikeouts in each of the first five innings and finished with 11 in his 5 2/3 innings on Tuesday. Tindall, who threw one pitch to get out of a two-out jam in the sixth, then struck out the side in the seventh as the Lancers broke a two-game losing streak.
“This is a big win for us. But every win in the Southwestern Conference is big win,’’ Lancers coach Ryan Wiggs said. “Evan was just outstanding. I thought his fastball and curve were very good early then about midway through he went more with his changeup and was effective with that as well.
“Then (Gabe) Tindall came in and threw one pitch in the sixth and closed it out in the seventh like he’s done several times for us this year. Like I said, it’s a big win.’’
Alton (8-9, 3-2) also received a solid outing from its starting pitcher, Michael Reeder, who allowed only three hits in four innings. But Reeder issued seven walks and was behind in the count to nearly every Lancers hitter.
Shortstop Zechariah Georgian walked to lead off in the first inning and scored on a fielder’s choice by Tindall as the Lancers grabbed a 1-0 lead. One inning later, Reeder forced in the Lancers’ second run with a bases-loaded walk to Sam McAnulty as East took a 2-0 lead.
From there it was all Gray for nearly six innings. Redbirds senior Jackson Brooks cut the Lancers’ lead to 2-1 with an RBI single in the third inning and Alton stranded a pair of runners in both the fourth and sixth innings as Gray continued to reach back for a little extra when needed.
“Acutally everything was working well tonight. I thought I had a good fastball early and the curve was also effective,’’ Gray said. “I went to the changeup a little more as the game went on and that worked well also.
“The conference wins are big. I was just glad to help my team win tonight.’’
Alton coach Scott Harper said that the Redbirds didn’t have the right approach at the plate on Tuesday.
“We struck out 14 times and that’s way too many times of not making contact and not putting the ball in play,’’ Harper said. “He (Gray) pitched well against us. But baseball is a game of making adjustments at the plate and we didn’t do that tonight.’’